Worried Lebanese

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Archive for the ‘Palestinian territories’ Category

Can one find the “Israeli Peace Initiative”® appealing?

Posted by worriedlebanese on 11/04/2011

Ten days ago, a group of Israeli business executives and public figures (including the former heads of Shin Bet and the Mossad, and a former IDF Chief of Staff), proposed a plan to end the Israeli-Arab conflict: they modestly called it the Israeli Peace Initiative (considering it’s nonofficial, call this naming wishful thinking). Up to now, not much attention was given to a proposal that seems like a “regional version” of the “Geneva Accords”. In its content, it doesn’t actually offer anything new. It’s a simple variation on the “land for peace” principle that has been the dominant peace paradigm since the drafting of the UNSC resolution 242 in 1967.

The only “novelty” in this proposal is that it presents itself as a “response to the Arab Peace Initiative (API)” which was is the Arab League’s first public endorsement of the “Land for Peace” principle (during the Beirut Summit in 2002, and then during the Riyad Summit in 2007 when it re-adopted the API without altering it). The endorsement of the “Land for Peace” principle is not the most significant element in the Arab Peace Initiative. What matters the most is that it showed the Arab states’ common willingness to recognize Israel…

Likewise, the “Israeli Peace Initiative” most significant feature is that it believes time is playing against Israel, and that it was critical for the Israeli government to revive negotiations.

What’s wrong with the “Land for Peace” principle?
I personally believe that the problem lies in the fact that it proposes a solution to the conflict without addressing the dynamics behind the conflict, and the dynamics that the conflict has created. Moreover, this principle doesn’t “solve” a conflict, but actually proposes a principle for settlement that covers three distinct conflictual dynamics:

  1. Interstate conflicts: two conflicts have already been been solved – Israel-Egypt & Israel-Jordan – and two conflicts remain – Lebanon-Israel & Syria-Israel. In this case, the territorial element is obvious, and the “land for peace” formulae has proven to be efficient in solving two conflicts, and it will undoubtedly prove itself when an agreement will be reached regarding the two remaining interstate conflicts. And the reason is actually very simple, the “land for peace” principles actually translates to an old & agreed principle in interstate relations (and law), that of territorial sovereignty.
  2. The Israeli-Palestinian problem: in this case territory is obviously an issue, but it is not the central one. The central issue is the relation between people (individuals and groups). The 1947 partition plan tried to offer a two state solution to this conflict: this could have allowed a territorial solution to the conflict were it accepted by the two parties, but it was actually refused by both (explicitly by the Palestinian side and implicitly by the Israeli side through the conquest of additional land). Moreover, the successive Israel governments have actually imposed a one state solution to the conflict since 1967 through a policy of land control, ethnic engineering and legal disenfranchisement). Trying to solve such a conflict “territorially” without looking into the people’s needs and grievances is both unrealistic and unethical. The problem here is between people that a particularly unkind history has shaped. So before looking into a “territorial settlement” (and this requires a search for the legal grounds underlying this principle, and the mechanisms of its implementation), one should remember that people have rights… and start addressing these issues.
  3. Refugees problem (Palestinians refugees and Jewish refugees): Here too, one should concentrate on the human dimension of the problem. It’s not about territory, it’s about people.

What are the dynamics that should be addressed?

Use of force to attain gains. Violence pays! and it pays pretty well. It has allowed the Jewish state established in 1948 to expand territorially and demographically, to reverse the ethnic balance, to reallocate wealth and redistribute property. Violence was necessary for the creation of a Jewish State (in a hostile environment), and necessary for its expansion.
Likewise, violence has served the Palestinian leadership well. There were no legal or political ways for it to assert itself, to expand the national movement and make its aspirations heard. That is true in the Palestinian Refugee camps and in the West Bank and Gaza. The only place where rights could be fought for legally (but not always successfully) was within Israel because some Palestinians still residing there were granted Israeli citizenship… Moreover, violence proved particularly instrumental for the Palestinian political parties to impose themselves after loosing an election (Fatah) or to assert their political rights (Hamas).

– Discrimination and ethnic engineering. This too has worked quite well. For all States in the Middle East. Discriminated and hostility toward Jews has not only resulted in the massive immigration of Arab-speaking Jews, but from the obliteration of their existence in the national narrative. This started in Palestine in the beginning of the 20th century and was followed by all the national ideologies in the Near East. Lebanon has enshrined discrimination against Palestinians in its constitution. Most countries in the Near East define themselves as ethnic states, leaving no place for national minorities in their narrative (the only notable example is today’s Iraq): Israel sees itself as a Jewish state (i.e. a State for Jews), Syria and Lebanon as Arab states (withstanding the notable presence of Armenians, Kurds and Syriacs…), Egypt as a Muslim Arab state and Turkey as a Turkish state (i.e. a State for Muslim Turks)… Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Israel have actively practiced ethnic engineering: Turkey and Israel against Arabs; Syria, Iraq and Turkey against Kurds.

What can be done?

If we want to end the conflict, instead of looking for ONE solution that offers a package deal we should be looking into the grievances and trying to neutralise the dynamics behind the conflict.

  1. Delegitimise violence: That doesn’t happen by simply condemning it! It can only happen once the gains that were done through violence are denounced and once propers institutions (or mechanisms) are establish that could allow the reversal of these gains. In other words, propers institutions should be established that would allow the expression of grievances and the pursuit of legitimate claims.
  2. Protect identities and respect difference: The protection of one’s identity is obviously a legitimate aim, but not all methods of protection are right. Wanting the protect Jewish identity in Israel, or Christian identity in Lebanon, or Arab identity in Syria, or Turkish identity in Turkey are legitimate concerns. But the means to attain it ceases to be legitimate when it’s carried through at the expense of another group. And up to now, Kurds are suffering from it in Syria and Turkey, Palestinians are suffering from it Lebanon and Israel, Arab-speakers are suffering from it in Turkey…
  3. Create institutions that respect difference: All countries in the Middle East are ethnically diverse and yet have discriminatory policies. Only two countries, albeit particularly dysfunctional, have up to now created a political system that respects difference: Lebanon (since 1926) and Iraq (since 2003). In Israel, a Palestinian-Israeli although offered equal citizenship can only watch Israeli politics as a bystander because the ethnic majority doesn’t allow him a space within the national debate that it defines as jewish.
  4. Start a healing process by working on common interests… Common interests are central to the Middle East agreements that have been promoted by the United States since the Camp David accords between Israel and Egypt (in 1979). However, they do not support a healing process because the peace treaties have not created the proper institutions that deal with grievances.

Posted in Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, Levantine Christians, Middle East, Palestinian territories, Palestinians, Peace, Pluralism, Political behaviour, Reconciliation, Turkey, Violence | Leave a Comment »

Paul the octopus new envoy to the Middle East

Posted by worriedlebanese on 13/07/2010

In an unprecedented step, the Quartet on the Middle East decided to appoint Paul the octopus as their special envoy to the Middle East. Paul will be taking over the position held by British former Prime Minister Tony Blair. The new Special Envoy seemed rather confident and unshaken by the daunting mission that was bequeathed to him. He will be arriving to Jerusalem tomorrow morning and Helga, his official spokesperson, announced that he would immediately start working on solving the Middle East’s most pressing problems. Paul chose Helga as his spokesperson earlier today, as she sat cramped at the bottom of his fish-tank in one of the two transparent boxes the public has grown accustomed to seeing on every news edition. He seemed so happy with his choice that he clung to her with eight arms, almost suffocating her. Three divers had to plunge into the tank to detach them from one another. The Quartet agreed never to put Helga or any other person in the tank again.
Instead of predicting the outcome of a sports game, Paul will be recommending the best move to make in the Middle East’s most intense political game. Every morning he will be presented with an Israeli position and a Palestinian position, and he will announce which one will have the most favourable outcome for Peace in the Middle East. Tony Blair, in the name of the Quartet wished Paul the best of luck, even though he confessed that his successor clearly didn’t need it.

The Quintet was established in Madrid in 2002 and is made up of four sides involved in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process: the United States, Russia, the European Union, and the United Nations. The Quartet’s first Special Envoy was James Wolfensohn, the former president of the World Bank, who stepped less than a year after his appointment when he realised he couldn’t do anything. The Quartet’s second Special Envoy refused to admit his failure in his mission and only learnt of his dismissal through an article in the Jerusalem Post.

Posted in Fiction, Israel, Middle East, Palestinian territories, Palestinians, Peace, Personal | Leave a Comment »

Mavi Marmara revisited

Posted by worriedlebanese on 05/06/2010

I’ll try to spill a couple of thoughts that have been whirling around in my mind.

Yes, sure, the Israeli commando was attacked on the Mavi Marmara. A quick look at the organisation behind the protest gives you a clear idea that you were not dealing with your ordinary “peace activists”. These people were here on a mission: Break the blockade, get through to Gaza whatever the cost!  And yeah, many seem to have an islamist background and amongst them there seems to have been several disreputable characters. But Israeli Intelligence knew all about those people and the organisation behind them since their departure from Turkey. Both sides knew that there was going to be a clash. It was expected. But that certainly doesn’t explain or justify the bloodbath.

Now let’s look at the dynamic the Mavi Marmara affaire triggered. One finds three types of media coverage, and one can fairly say that they were all biased, and their approach was teleological.

  • The pro-Israeli media was interested in whitewashing the Israeli army and justifying Israeli policy. And it used all the usual techniques: an agressive smear campaign against the victims of the raid, and a substitution of victimhood (the soldiers were presented as the victims). The only problem with this “defense” line was that it could only convince those who were ready to be convinced. Those who are not die hard supporters of the Israeli government and its policies could easily see the loopholes in that presentation and the manipulation of information. Watching some footage and comments reminded me of Alan Dershowitz’s The Case for Israel. Another interesting twist is that the pro-Israeli arguments left the Palestinians out of the picture (as they usually do). It wasn’t about Gaza (that is always cynically presented as ok as long as it is not starving). It was about Israel vs Turkey (which is a rather melodramatic approach, knowing that  the military alliance is still secure, no Ambassadors were called back or off…).

  • The anti-Israeli media was interested in celebrating the victimhood of the injured and the killed while denouncing the brutality of Israel. Everything that didn’t fit that picture was discarded… The activists on the Flotilla were shown as heroes not because of their own deeds (ex: they fought Israel), but through their victimhood and their courage in facing a brutish enemy. They didn’t speak of the militants fighting the commando. They did not insist on the psychological dimension or emotions (fear, panic…), as did the pro-Israel media. The anti-Israeli media was so focused on being anti-Israeli that it even repackaged the objectives of the flotilla: they became more anti-Israeli than pro-Palestinian. Actually, Palestinians were left out of the picture. It was more about “we” vs Israel.
  • Then we have the “neutral” media, mostly western (think BBC for instance) with its very ambiguous respons to the events. Probably because it was being (too) actively fed by both sides. The pro-Israel groups were working on the narrative : reframing the events, shedding a different light on the different actors of this drama, feeding the media “information” in an orderly way (even if the “info” was inaccurate). Pure Hasbara. The pro-Palestinian groups were also extremely active, but as usual, they focused on the emotional side. Instead of expanding the narrative, they reduced it to its most emotional content: they shot and killed us. Instead of insisting on the flaws of the Israeli argument, with its specific framing of the events, they repeated their mantra without backing it with more arguments. What the “neutral” media tried to do was denounce the outcome of the raid but it showed its discomfort with the identity of the protestors who were injured and killed, reminding the listeners/viewers that they were islamists.

    To sum things up, the “Mavi Marmara operation” highlights two important elements in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. One one side we have a country and a society that is becoming increasingly cynical and unapologetic with the violence it shows towards anyone non-Jewish. This has become quite apparent for most people except a majority of Israelis. On the other side we have a Pro-Palestinian movement that is growing more and more strikingly heterogenous, and its most vocal, recognisable and effective components are islamist (moderate as in this case, or radical as in the case of Hamas and Hezbollah). This dynamic is affecting the whole movement, making some people within it increasingly uncomfortable, and shifting the focus from “pro-Palestinian” to “anti-Israeli”, a shift that is both damaging to the movement and to the dynamics of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict.

    Posted in Communication, Discourse, Israel, Journalism, Palestinian territories, Palestinians, Prejudice, Turkey, Values, Violence | 13 Comments »

    Would a flotilla by any other name…

    Posted by worriedlebanese on 03/06/2010

    Like many of you in cyberspace, I’ve been reading extensively about the “Gaz Freedom Flotilla affair/raid/attack/massacre”.

    Trying to represent "evil" and missing the point while at it

    At first, I received an avalanche of such emails. Frankly, I was irritated by the tone of these emails. They all focused on “Israel’s barbaric acts” and “its monstrosity”.  This kind of commentary is shallow (how important is labelling), easy (it’s done by people who are hostile to Israel and/or its policies to start with) and useless (it’s intended for audiences that are hostile to Israel and/or its policies), and usually boders on Tourette Syndrom. Not only it preaches to the converted, but its language confirms the pro-Israel public in its own prejudice and paranoia. It mostly forgets that the whole issue is about GAZA, and not Israel. Take a look at Carlos Latuff’s cartoon and try do imagine how a supporter of Israel would understand it.

    Then I started reading blog entries about the whole affair. Trying to look beyond the praise, the condemnation, the victimisation and the accusations, I started processing some information:

    • What are the facts? If you think identifying the relevant data or “hard facts” is an easy matter, well think again. Check out the articles written, pick out anyone of them, randomly. Ignore all the commentary (accusations, justification, condemnation) and set aside the hard facts. You’re not left with much. Here’s a little quiz: how many boats did the flotilla consist of? How many injured were there (on both sides)? What do you know about the deceased?
      • What do we actually know about what actually happened? Nothing much. It’s more about “they did it again” or “they were looking for trouble and they got it”.
      • What are we being told about it? One could excuse the cyberworld for sticking to the emotions and emotional responses. But what excuse does the Media have for doing such a lousy job. I just watched the news report on the BBC, two days after the events, and all I got was two conflicting versions, one made by Israeli officials, and another made by activists from the Flotilla. Both versions were either unspecific or blatantly inaccurate, with more smear than info.
    • What are the contentious issues? There’s a bunch of them: the Israeli blockade on Gaza (is it legal, ethical, effective, productive?); the Gaza freedom flotilla’s attempt to break the blockade (is it effective? is it lawful? is it suicidal?); the Israeli army’s enforcement of the blockade and its capture of the boats (is it brutal? proportionate? hysterical? lethal? normal?)…
    • What are the frameworks within which the data is being processed and propagated?

    When whitewashing borders on paranoïa

    Next came the “pro-Israel” blogs and outlets. I wasn’t surprised by their reactions either. I’ve heard their arguments before, and actually expected to hear them. One could sum them up in three sentences : “we are the victims”, “they are the agressors”, “they made us do it”. The cartoon pictures here illustrates this perception perfectly. The argument presents itself in the following manner: it starts with an abstract apologetical formula that is not linked to an act but to an outcome (which is odd for an apology). Then there’s a quick recasting of the events in which are presented an elastic yet always humane “we” (that alternatively or hypothetically refers to the IDF, the government, Israelis or Jews) and an accusative barbaric “them” (in which those directly concerned are presented as a small sample of a much larger and threatening group). Any act attributed to “we” becomes a mechanical reaction to an act attributed to “them”. This transforms this “act” (and any act is by definition voluntary) into something of a “coerced” or “involuntary” reaction (think knee jerk reflex) which absolves the person who committed it from any responsibility.

    Finally, I started constructing my own story (compatible with my worldview, you’d argue), trying to verify some info, and comparing it with other affairs to try to make sens of it all. If one wants to strip the whole affair to its bare elements, the story is quite simple, and let’s not start arguing about chronology.

    1. Who: The flotilla brought together an international group of militants who want to break the blockade on Gaza as a first step towards getting it lifted.
    2. What: The blockade is imposed by Israel (with the complicity of many other international actors, including Egypt), and its alleged objective is “defensive” (to prevent the rearmament of Hamas). The result is punitive: collective punishment that transforms Gaza into a large prison and creates an informal economy completely dominated by Hamas and that is dependent on tunnels through which many things are smuggled including material that is used for weapon construction.
    3. How: The strategy is to force Israel into changing its policy towards Gaza, more specifically, to get it to lift the blockade. The key word here is obviously “force”. And it’s a tricky word and a complicated objective. Basically, you have a group of people who want to change a military strategy through non-military means… The Media is a central component of this strategy because it’s about “image”, symbolic steps and building pressure within and outside Israel to get its security complex to modify its strategy.
    4. Where’s the problem? Israel can no longer count on domestic pressure because its Jewish population is today totally unconcerned by Palestinians and insensible to their plight. Its only concern is to remain unconcerned, untroubled by them. As for international pressure, it is not strong enough to influence the Israeli government. So the Flotilla’s strategy didn’t have a chance to succeed. All it could do was encourage more flottilas to head toward Gaza and hope that this would lead to a snowball effect… and in the meantime keep the blockade on the global agenda (the international community has a very short memory span). It also could hope to get as much humanitarian aid through as it can. But that’s about it.
    5. What next? With its customary brutality and the death toll it leaves behind (that is obvious to all who simply look at the figures), the IDF might have changed things. The “Mavi Marmara” deaths have already started a new dynamic, just like the Cana massacres did in 1996 and in 2006 or the Sabra and Chatilla massacre in 1982. Sure, the story will be revisited over and over again, whitewashed as much as possible. But in the meantime it would have created an insufferable image for Israel that would force it to revise its strategy or at least refrain from doing the same mistake (while at the same time denying it was a mistake) in an immediate future. And in this immediate future the Rachel Corrie will be arriving, and probably other flotillas.

    Posted in Antisemitism, Blogosphere, Communication, Conspiracy, Discourse, Israel, Palestinian territories, Prejudice, Semantics | 2 Comments »

    The Archipelago of Eastern Palestine

    Posted by worriedlebanese on 09/12/2009

    Julien Bousac's very telling map of Palestine

    Mahmoud Abbas’s visit to Lebanon reminded me of an interesting map I stumbled upon a couple of weeks ago while flicking through Challenge (don’t worry, i haven’t succumbed to the corporate world yet… still resisting. The magazine was offered to me by a pretty flight attendant).

    I personally believe that maps are misleading. But this specific one says more than a thousand words.

    Posted in Israel, Palestinian territories, Palestinians | 4 Comments »

    Recipe for a fruitful discussion

    Posted by worriedlebanese on 07/11/2009

    Bring a thread, not a woven carpet!

    g2spv9013pI was reading a couple of blogs today, vast discussions debating over the best solution to the Palestinian question (the more realistic, the more equitable, the more profitable…). Bloggers were parrotting  politicians, proposing package deals and behaving like merchants, trying to sell the best product, the miracle pill.

    It reminded me of those humorous pills you find in gadget stores (“Take two pills a day and become blond”, “Four pills to learn German”) or at your chemists (“this pill will make u happier”, “this pill will make u slimmer”).

    These discussions have little sens. They do not even qualify as discussions. It’s like merchants yelling their goods. And taking it very much at heart, behaving as if they created the product to start with.
    In Lebanon, we have similar discussions. The debate over institutional reform follows the same pattern. People will howl at you the virtues of federalism, others will hammer at you the necessity for deconfessionalisation. Each is convinced that the opponent’s solution is seditious, destructive and morally flowed.

    Such discussions are sterile. A one state solution for Palestine/Israel could threaten Jewish existence as much as it could threaten Palestinian existence. It could be a solution just as it could just reframe the problem. All depends on the institutions that will be chosen and the way social and political actors will interact with them. Similarly, a two state solution could reinforce the antagonism between the two people just as it could comfort their fears.
    The same could be said about the institutional debate in Lebanon. Federalism could bring the country closer together just as it could be the first step towards a permanent divorce between regions and communities. It all depends on what kind of federalism is adopted and how the social and political actors will interact with the new institutions. These two elements are hardly ever considered. The same could be said about confessionalisation and deconfessionalisation. Up to now, the results haven’t been very positive either way. When President Chehab introduced confessionalism to the public administration in the 1960s, it worked as an instrument of “affirmative action” but increased the hold of patronage networks and gave it a stronger communal flavour. Similarly, when the Taef agreement got rid of the Chehabist parity rule, it didn’t diminish the hold of the patronage networks but encouraged Christian-Lebanese to “withdraw” from the State apparatus (just as they had did since the 1950s from the Municipality of Beirut)…

    Wouldn’t it be preferable to stop looking for the miracle panacea and spend all our energy on defending this “global solution” and just tackle the points that we find important, one by one? For example advancing individual and collective rights or dismounting the patronage networks in Lebanon, or working on mobility, security and the respect of individual and collective rights in Israel/Palestine…

    Posted in Civil Society, Communication, Discourse, Israel, Lebanon, Palestinian territories, Personal, Political behaviour, Propositions, Reform | 2 Comments »

    Gaza… Closed zone

    Posted by worriedlebanese on 05/03/2009

    Well, there’s a first time for everything. Up to now, I had never inserted a youtube video in this blog. I didn’t see the point of it. But how can you resist Yoni Goodman’s short film “Closed Zone”. I discovered it on Haaretz’s website. For anyone reading this blog, and interested in the Middle East, you should check out this Israeli paper as often as possible. I believe it is by far the best daily in the Middle East. Sure it has its biases, it is after all an israeli rather judeo-centric and left leaning newspaper. But you’ll probably find in its pages the best reporting and analysis on the conflict.

    As for the film, it’s really worth the click, and it only runs a minute and a half. Yoni Goodman created it for the Israeli NGO Gisha devoted to the freedom of movement.  He is no other than the animator of “Waltz with Bashir”.

    I would have preferred a slightly more condensed version of the clip, without the final frames in which the bird is caged. They are rather redundant and the message is quite clear without them.

    Posted in Egypt, Israel, Palestinian territories, Palestinians, Security, Violence | Leave a Comment »

    Gaza, a prequel to Lebanon War 3 ?

    Posted by worriedlebanese on 06/01/2009

    MIDEAST-PALESTINIAN-ISRAEL-GAZA-CONFLICTEvery day, news leaked into my spirit on what was happening in Gaza. I had shut myself off from it, tried to ignore it. But the death toll kept reminding me that there was a new war in the Middle East, actually not a new war but a new battle (in an ongoing war)  in my neighbourhood. 

    I couldn’t stand to hear the press commenting on it. It was all dabble or worse… propaganda. Almost no coverage from Gaza. Only some images (probably stolen) from a Palestinian and Islamist TV, but no western journalists, no live testimonies from westerners living there. The only people interviewed were european looking IDF personnel, mostly women. 

    As I walked on the streets of Amsterdam, I noticed through a window a TV reporting on the war. Each war in the Middle East is a rehearsal to another war. It’s a training ground for another war. That’s at least how the Israeli military sees it, and that’s how their foes now understand it. In each war, new strategies are tested and “lessons” learnt from previous wars applied. 

    Israel knows that the Middle East is no friendly place to live in, so it has grown accustomed to seeing itself “victim” of an everlasting and ongoing war with its neighbours. A war taking various forms (one of them being a truce or a peace treaty), with nothing to build on except ones military “defensive” capacities, nothing to do other than “prepare” for the next war.

    One thing is sure. Israel isn’t the only one “learning” from the present “war lessons”. While the whole world watches the battle raging , the military operations expanding and the casualties mounting; While Palestinians in Gaza (and Hamas) try to survive… Hezbollah is equally “learning” from the “Second Gaza War” the new strategies developed by its enemy, for they will surely be applied soon in Lebanon.

    And as I sit comfortably in front of my computer in a public library, Gaza II seems to be just another prequel to the next war.

    Posted in Israel, Journalism, Palestinian territories, Palestinians, Security, Violence | 1 Comment »

    A month in a virtual-peace-community – part 2

    Posted by worriedlebanese on 17/09/2008

    What I didn’t say yesterday about this virtual-peace-community is that it is managed and owned by an young Israeli, a member of Peace Now.

    This fact could explain some of the problems the virtual-peace-community faces. Peace Now is a left leaning zionist organisation. It enjoys a large international support in intellectual circles because of its pro-peace stands, but in Israel, it is criticized by all sides:  On the right because of its attitude against the settlements in the West Bank, on the left because it’s seen as inefficient and too zionist. 

    I personally have been quite sympathetic to some of this NGOs work, but critical of its two shortcomings:  

    – Its support of the 2006 July War

    – Its lack of interest in non-jewish membership (which is odd for a Peace movement that is in a multinational country and in a multi-religious region). 

    Nevertheless, one can only be admirative of the courage Peace Now and the creator of the virtual-peace-community have for extending a peaceful hand to their enemy when they are criticised by their own and generally ignored and rejected by those to whom they extend your hand. This is what Peace Now has faced, and this is what the cyber-community is suffering from. If they can’t find a way to solve these two problems, there’s very little chance that they will be able to succeed in their venture.

    Posted in Blogosphere, Discourse, Israel, Lebanon, Middle East, Palestinian territories | Leave a Comment »

    A month in a virtual-peace-community – part 1

    Posted by worriedlebanese on 16/09/2008

    Dear blogosphere,

    It wasn’t really work that kept me off this blog, but my growing involvement elsewhere in cyberspace. Over a year ago, I joined a virtual-community committed to peace in the Middle East. For months I was a regular, but this summer, things slipped out of control. I spend over two hours a day reading and responding to postings and comments. It was eating up almost of my spare time, to what avail? This is what I asked myself yesterday when I decided to wean myself off it. 

    It was time to check the balance sheet. What was I getting out of this virtual-peace-community? Was it of benefit for me to stay on?

    Well, it was interesting to see that the “Peacemakers” on the site are deeply divided among different lines:

    – the first line is linguistic: the site is mostly in English, so those who master the language are likely to dominate the discussions (i.e. English native speakers and people with a high academic background). The site tried to encourage postings in Hebrew and Arabic, but it didn’t work,

    – the second line is ideological: on one side you have the pro-zionist (adamant defenders of Israel) and on the other the anti-zionists (they’re mostly anti-zionist Israeli or diaspora jews). Each group has his cyber-soldiers who shoot at anyone that doesn’t belong to their camp.

    – the third line is on the level of arguments and experience in “peacemaking”: some arguments are journalistic, others are academic, some were highly ideological, others were technical… Some were informed, others not at all… The same subjects were treated ad nauseam… the same arguments repeated incessantly… Copy/Pasting from other cites used extensively by some in their postings and comments… 

    What a challenge it was to make such a diverse audience interact with each other peacefully! Anger is palpable in most discussions and cyber-soldiers are very efficient in hijacking discussions (though their number is limited: never more than 10 out of 1000 member).

    Posted in Blogosphere, Discourse, Israel, Lebanon, Middle East, Palestinian territories | Leave a Comment »

    Bitter Lemon trees

    Posted by worriedlebanese on 16/06/2008

    If the title song doesn’t send U screaming out of the theater (luckily, my feet were aching), I’m sure U’ll find Eran Riklis last movie enjoyable and thought provoking (in a subtle way). Sure, the story has been told, but Riklis does it a bit differently. He doesn’t do the whole work for you. He offers all the elements – most of them we are familiar with – and it’s up to us to put them together. 

    What he shows are two societies trapped in their mental systems: the Palestinians in their informal “intifada” mentality, the Israelis in their institutional “security obsessed” framework. Both societies speak different languages; and it’s not just about Hebrew versus Arabic, it goes deeper… it’s about institutional versus emotional, consumeristic versus economical survival, jewish-centric versus palestinian-centric…

    This “linguistic” clash clearly comes across in the courtroom… the woman’s lawyer brings in a witness who tries to translate what he considers to be “key sentences” from Arabic to Hebrew. His language is poetic, he is appealing to the judge’s humanity. But the judge doesn’t hear him. She listens to the military lawyer’s arguments. They are factual, grounded in law, grounded in a law that allows the military complete powers on security matters, powers that even the Minister of the Interior doesn’t question. The Lemon tree are a security issue. But instead of uprooting the trees, as the military has decided, she decides it’s enough to trim them down to bonzaïs. 

    This argument is similar to the one given by the Higher Court concerning the Wall. The Higher Court doesn’t question the opportunity of building a “security fence”/”separation wall” between the Palestinians from one side and the Israeli and Jewish settler population from another… It doesn’t try to balance short term “security” issues with humanitarian principles. It only tries to limit the “shocking” aspects of the israeli policy and its consequences. 

    Posted in Communication, Intercommunal affairs, Israel, Justice, Palestinian territories, Palestinians | 2 Comments »

    Two interesting articles by Bradley Burston

    Posted by worriedlebanese on 27/05/2008

    I think two of the most interesting articles I read this year surrounding the 60th anniversary of Israel were penned by Bradley Burston, in the Israeli daily HaAretz : 

    – We owe the Palestinians a state

    – Sixty years of Nakba, 60 years of nothing.

    Both articles are courageous and highlight very important things that were obliterated by the imposing celebrations of Israel’s independence day. What I most admired is what Burston terms Israel’s “tragic success”, and how he flips the coin to look at its other side. He invites Israelis to consider on that day what they owe the Palestinians. 

    Lastly, he sums up the last two decades extraordinarily. During the 90s, “we lost our belief in the power of peace to solve our problems”, and “then we lost our faith in the power of war to do the same”.  




    Posted in Israel, Palestinian territories, Palestinians, Politics | Leave a Comment »

    Mohammed al-Atar’s “The Iron Wall”

    Posted by worriedlebanese on 24/02/2008

    theironwallb.jpgTrying to get to watch this movie was an adventure in itself. A couple of months ago, I tried to catch it’s only public screening in Paris. I had received a message from my aunt reminding me about it. Only I read it 30 minutes before the start of the projection. So I pedaled and rushed as fast as I could from the other end of the city. I had a flat tire… I couldn’t find another bicycle to swap it with… And after finally finding one and reaching my destination, I couldn’t find a terminal to park the rented bicycle… So I arrived a couple of minutes late and saw a large crowd cuing before the theater. They weren’t actually cuing. They were discussing politics, middle eastern politics. Most looked French. But I’m sure there were a couple of Lebanese, Palestinians and Israeli amongst them. The theatre was packed, but they stayed on to discuss the same topic, either hoping to be allowed in, or they were just happy to meet with like-minded people and were planning on watching another middle-eastern film programmed for the same day.  After eavesdropping for a couple of minutes, I returned home.Later that day, I learnt that a friend had bought back a DVD copy of the film from England. So i decided to borrow it from her. And so I did. I literally shelved it for weeks. But decided to watch it a couple of hours ago. I wouldn’t say I found it disappointing. It was actually rather close to what I had expected. It is a militant palestinian movie that’s main argument is against the separation wall.  What I hadn’t expected was the reaction it was going to have on me. I felt totally discouraged. The whole Israeli-Palestinian issue seemed to be totally hopeless. Strangely enough, this impression didn’t come from the film’s subject, but from it’s approach. It reminded me of Alan Dershowitz’s “A Case for Israel” in its obsession to “prove” one point right by discarding any information that doesn’t directly suit this purpose. What does Mohammed al-Atar’s expect from this film? Sympathy for the Palestinians? Antipathy towards Israel? Most of the people who are likely to see his movie already share his sentiments… As for the rest, they’re going to be surprised by his portrayal of Israel and its colonisation policies. Even though he undeniably relies on facts, people are likely to be taken aback by the way he browbeats his point. When one makes such a militant documentary, one hopes for change. If Mohammed al-Atar aims at that, I believe he’s chosen the wrong strategy.

    Posted in Discourse, Israel, Palestinian territories, Palestinians | 4 Comments »

    Egypt closes Rafah border

    Posted by worriedlebanese on 04/02/2008


    How said it was to hear that the Rafah border was closed again; that the inhabitants of Gaza were once again walled in their strip. When I saw the images of the Egyptian army pushing the Palestinian back with water-cannons, setting up a barbed-wire fence, patrolling the border areas to catch the “fugitives” still wandering free in Egyptian lands. As I watched those pictures I started to feel the anger Islamists throughout the world were feeling as they watched the same pictures. I started to understand how this fueled their general mistrust of the West that was applauding such a measure and their hate of the Arab regimes for not only failing to condemn it but openly supporting it.  It was like watching the West German army in 1989 sealing off the Berlin Wall again, claiming that if it did not do so, it would be breaching the quadripartite agreement between the WW2 allies and that this lack of reaction could be interpreted as a casus belli by Democratic Republic of Germany or the USSR!! Does one have the right to transform a district home to 1.5 million souls into a roofless prison? To condemn all its inhabitants to economic underdevelopment? To kill all hope for a brighter future?  

    Posted in Egypt, Palestinian territories, Palestinians, Political behaviour, Violence | Leave a Comment »

    Israel/Palestine in mind -1

    Posted by worriedlebanese on 23/11/2007

    For the past week, I’ve been somewhat obsessed by the whole Palestinian-Israeli question. It all started on monday, after a talk I had with a very interesting Frenchwoman who had campaigned for the release of Marwan Barghouti. Her actions resulted in an expulsion order by the Israeli authorities. Several people in the group she’s in have sympathies for both the Palestinians and the Levantine Christians, which is quite a rare combination in Europe. Those who commiserate with the Palestinians are usually left-leaning (which she seems to be) and are quite sensitive to the anti-colonial rhetoric, while those who empathise with the Levantine Christians are usually conservative, traditionalist or religious and are rather hostile to anything islamic. I wonder what her position was during the first few years of the Lebanese war (1975-1983). We had a short healthy debate over the question of approaches to the Palestinian question: a political one or a humanitarian one (collective vs individual).
    The second event that triggered my questioning was an article I read on the Annapolis peace summit. It seems that Abbas and Olmert were unable to get to a common understanding in Jerusalem, what hope is there that they would achieve anything different across the Atlantic?
    The third event was the projection of Mohammad Atar’s “Iron wall” in Paris. I arrived a couple of minutes late to the projection and couldn’t get in because of the crowd that had invaded the theatre and its surroundings. So I compensated by reading articles about Vladmir Jabotinsky (who fathered this expression and notion). And then I came across an interview of Benny Morris by Ari Shavit (rather chilling) and got a couple of infos on Ghaleb (Raleb) Majadele and Avi Shlaim.

    Posted in Civil Society, Discourse, Lebanon, Middle East, Palestinian territories, Palestinians | Leave a Comment »